by Preston Dozsa
reviewed on PC
A Hat in Time wears its inspirations on its sleeve: from ‘collectathon’ platformers such as Banjo-Kazooie to the humorous, character-driven Psychonauts, A Hat in Time takes these influences and turns them into a finely tuned, smoothly controlled platformer that is so rarely seen on PC. Hat Kid is a small explorer who was on her way home aboard her comfortable, pillow-laced spaceship, when an angry Mafioso flies through space and knocks on her front door. After a terse exchange, Hat Kid finds herself plummeting to the world below alongside all of the fuel she needs to get herself home. What follows is a lot of running, jumping and collecting of a multitude of shiny objects, all in the name of making sure that Hat Kid can continue her journey home.
A Hat in Time begins in Mafia Town, one of a handful of worlds that you explore in the process of collecting the 40 Time Pieces that fuel Hat Kid’s ship. It’s a bright, colourful world filled with angry gangsters yet little in the way of active threats, serving as the tutorial area where you can get used to the controls. You’ll practice wall jumping, belly sliding, and beating the tar out of numerous Mafia members, all of which lets you get a grip on how the game will play out as you move beyond this world.
It’s a fantastic intro, and is a good representation of the game’s sense of playfulness. The Mafia are stereotypically burly, moustachioed gangsters in blue suits, delightfully over the top in both their actions and appearance. In one memorable instance, I spontaneously played a game of pattycake with one member of the mob, and couldn’t help but laugh when he punched Hat Kid across the level to cap it off. Offbeat jokes like this can be found in every world, and while it doesn’t always make the most sense, I couldn’t help but fall in love with it.
WILD AND WONDERFUL WORLDS
Mafia Town may have been a good intro, but it’s in the other worlds where A Hat in Time starts to pull out all the stops in both style and gameplay. Following in the tradition of other collectathons, the different worlds are all unique in style, challenges and character. Battle of the Birds features three unique environments that are filled with characters and creatures that ask you to complete different tasks, more often than not in the name of a good joke. SubCon Forest is much more open, tasking you with exploring the world and uncovering solutions to the puzzles that are littered throughout the haunted woods. And Alpine Skyline is an intricate platformer that demands you to master all of the abilities at your disposal, lest you fall to an untimely death.
The result of this means that there is always a new mechanic, a new joke or a new collectible around every corner. There was never a moment where the game trod old ground or threw in random mini-games to fill the gaps, instead relying on the strength of its platforming and its off-kilter style to great effect. A Hat in Time is as pure of a platformer, in both style and gameplay, as you’re ever going to get. That said, this also means that despite setting the game up with a primary antagonist and plotline in Mafia Town, it is quickly forgotten in the face of the wild and wonderful worlds you will explore.
As you complete different chapters and collect balls of yarn, you’ll unlock new hats which you can equip to use new powers, including the ever popular ground pound attack and the ability to throw explosive vials, among others. These only add to the numerous platforming abilities that you’ll slowly learn and uncover over the course of the game, all of which are easy to perform whether you use a keyboard and mouse or a controller. It doesn’t take too long to pick up on the basics, but the numerous hats and abilities do take plenty of practice to properly master.
Though the controls are solid, the game is plagued by camera issues throughout. This has been a common problem with countless 3D platformers, but it still crops up with regularity in A Hat in Time. Particularly when navigating tight corridors and pathways, the camera would frequently freak out when trying to get the best angle for the situation.
But in the grand scheme of things, camera issues and a disconnected plot are minor complaints. A Hat in Time is inventive, funny, and most importantly, a blast to play. Like the best platformers on other consoles, this is a game where the simple act of running, jumping and collecting shiny objects is fun from beginning to end.
Colourful worlds, polished gameplay.
Camera issues, disconnected plot.